Robert F. Smith Speaks With Van Jones About Racial Justice at Town & Country’s Virtual Philanthropy Summit

Robert F. Smith took part in this year’s virtual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit, speaking from his home to thousands of viewers who joined remotely. Inspired by Town & Country’s Summer 2020 Philanthropy Issue, the four-day virtual event featured conversations with some of the world’s leading humanitarians about racial justice, education, crisis philanthropy, and more.

Smith’s panel was part of the second day of programming, and he spoke with Van Jones, CEO of the REFORM Alliance, TV host, and author. They spoke about criminal justice reform, the fight for racial justice in America, and Smith’s hope and investment in college students. Smith famously pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

Smith wants the Morehouse gift to inspire students to give back even more. “I want one quarter of them to actually go and become a teacher back in their communities, teach STEM, math, science,” he said. “I would like one quarter of them to become chemical engineers… I want a quarter of them actually to become lawyers…and I want a quarter of them to be politicians to go and influence the policies that go and make that happy. I want all of them to be happy and go liberate people’s spirits as a general rule as a way of paying it forward.”

Smith is also an industry leader and a national voice on racial justice. During the summit, he argued that the private sector needs to step up and deploy “permanent capital” — meaning investments and commitments that are scalable and focused on the long-term. Specifically, companies should designate 2% of their yearly earnings to closing racial opportunity gaps, diversifying their boards and pension managers, making higher education more affordable and addressing disparities that they’re uniquely qualified to help solve. 

To listen to Smith’s entire conversation with Van Jones, view it here